You never thought it would happen, but over the past few weeks and even months you or a loved one have struggled with the diagnosis of cancer. After exploring all possible options you have surrounded yourself with the best treatment team possible. They keep you informed, listen to your concerns and input and are working with you toward the best possible outcome.
Yet in my experience in caring for cancer victims in hospital and home situations I have seen time and again the negative affect a sentence of a ‘life expectancy’ can have over a cancer victim and their family. Cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment options have out of necessity been top priority as you listen to the cautious predictions for recovery.
Some doctors may try to voice an opinion as to your ‘life expectancy’ in regards to how your treatments are progressing, . While discussing life expectancy,meaning ‘how long you have left to live’ is perhaps a topic many health care personal are familiar discussing, in truth no one knows with one hundred percent certainty how long any of us have left to live. Thousands of individuals who appear to be in their prime of life die without warning every day.
I urge you instead to explore your Life Expectations. I used the phrase – Life EXPECTATIONS as the ability to live and enjoy life at the best possible level according to where the individual is on a daily or hourly basis.
None of us knows with absolute certainty how long we have to enjoy time with family and friends and life around us. When dealing with such an all consuming diagnosis as cancer, it is easy to forget to live life to its fullest . Making a goal to live life to the fullest every day and taking time with our family and friends is sure to enrich all our lives, regardless of health status.
There is no question that your ongoing battle against the disease will affect your life on a daily basis. I am a firm believer that the mind is the greatest weapon we have to battle illness on any level. By choosing early on to focus on Life Expectations-and finding ways to maintain the most fulfilling life possible regardless of how your treatment options progress; you and your family can spend quality time together making new memories to be shared in days ahead. Life expectations means taking treatments and doctor’s visits in stride when necessary, but not allowing them to become the center of your focus, conversation and energies.
There will be days when you are challenged to find a positive topic of discussion. The length, and type of treatment you are going through can and does bring about a new set of challenges. However you can plan to spend those ‘good days’ or better times focusing on living your life to the fullest and knowing having done so, that there is no need for regrets.
Plan to share memories and favorite traditions with those around you.
Help begin a scrap book or organize those family pictures and share the stories behind them. Write down those favorite recipes the family always asks you to make. Get together to share the favorites in a meal and recall how and when you first began to prepare these family favorites! Join in family activities as your energy level allows.
Some treatments may cause unusual fatigue or even another condition known as Chemo Head which happens as a result of the chemical changes in the brain as a result of chemotherapy treatment. This affects your ability to concentrate or think clearly at times, however letting family member know what to expect can lessen the need for explaining if you must retire early or find a quite moment to yourself in the midst of a large family gathering. Christine Bude shares further on the topic of Chemo Head in her article published June 15,2007.
When working with your health care team, discuss the Life Expectations you and your family are looking to enjoy together. Make plans to work within those expectations as much as possible. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment options you are experiencing, treat times can sometimes be scheduled to allow for family plans such as holidays, reunions or other important festivities. When that isn’t possible, it may be an option to have a home health care individual accompany you and be there to support you in any way necessary.
Family and friends should be encouraged to share future plans and goals and allow you to take part in whatever extent you are feeling up to sharing. Don’t make the mistake of allowing the diagnosis of cancer to rob you of any more quality time and memory making opportunities with your family and loved ones than is necessary. A positive outlook and active participation in living life to the fullest for as long as possible goes a long way in strengthening your battle back to recovery.
Deciding now to embrace life expectations is a good habit for everyone to begin putting in place. To often the most overheard comment after a loved one is gone is, “I wish we could have spent more time together, or gone on that trip…” By focusing on Life expectations everyone can begin to live lives to the fullest for whatever time any of us have left.
Cancer is a terrible illness, it robs the individual of a lot in terms of health and stamina some days but the greatest tragedy is when an individual gives in to the ‘predicted life expectancy’ and in the process, forgets to live their life to the fullest for as long as possible. A small adjustment in thinking before that type of news or ‘judgment’ is given to you or a loved one can go a long way in maintaining control over your life goals and Expectations!
* * * These reports are not meant to replace any information your doctor has given you.
They are for informative purposes only. Always check with your physician for options and treatment solutions.
National Cancer Institute: US National Institute of Health.
www.cancer.org. June 6, 2007.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America:
http://www.cancercenter.com. June 1, 2007.
Christine Bude, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment: “Chemo Head”. June 15,2007.